Look stylish on a budget – part five

If you’re on a budget, you need to think laterally about where to buy from.

When you’re on a budget or a reduced income, you need to be disciplined about your clothes purchases. Here, let’s look at how and where to buy. 

How to buy

* Set a budget and stick to it. My personal spending budget is £15 a month, but that has to cover ALL my personal expenditure, not just clothes. I do allow myself to have new clothes – mainly knickers and socks – as part of the weekly food shop, but something else has to be sacrificed. 

* Buy only twice a year, during the sales. This is what British aristos do – believe me, they don’t pay full price for ANYTHING. My friend Peter (now a merchant banker) used to shop twice a year at Harrods – his undies were worn to a thread by the time he replaced them, but at least they were Zegna, as he was all too keen to remind me. He also bought cashmere at fantastic discounts every Christmas until he had a beautiful collection. Overall, I reckon he spent far less money than I did, but he was much better dressed. 

* Use those sales to stock up on well-cut basics such as good tees, jeans, footwear, bags and belts, rather than fashion items. When you’re on a budget, your ‘backbone’ clothes are what really count and they should be as distant from fashion as possible – not OLD-fashioned, but NON-fashion. 

* If you want to try a new fashion colour or texture, try it first in an accessory rather than a garment – you’ll echo the trend without breaking the bank. This autumn, for instance, tartan is a trend – a tartan bag might be just the thing. 

* If you do want to buy a fashion garment, at the start of each season go around and make notes on all the current collections. Work out what the style statement is and buy ONE THING that echoes it (this year, for instance, it might be a charcoal grey, knee-length cableknit cardigan, a version of which appeared in every ready to wear catwalk collection). If you buy at the start of the season, you’ll get plenty of wear out of it before the trend moves on. 

Be warned – this approach will not make you popular – I got some serious sniping from shop assistants when I used to do it in London, but it’s your right as a consumer. My advice, if you can only buy one thing, focus on your top half.

Where to buy

If you’re used to shopping in boutiques and named stores for your clothes, learn to think a little laterally. 

* Buy on Ebay. If you hate the idea of buying second-hand (and I’d advise anyone on a budget to be less squeamish), look for items that are [B]NWT ([brand] new with tags) or [B]NWOT ([brand] new without tags). Look for vendors with at least 90 per cent positive feedback, and pay via Paypal. 

* Buy in charity shops. If you have a good eye, you can dress very well here. My Yves St Laurent, Jean Muir, Zandra Rhodes, Burberry, Benny Ong and Jeanne Lanvin clothes are all from charity shops. 

* Buy vintage. There’s no better way to get statement clothes or to build a unique look to go on top of everyday basics. About a third of my wardrobe is vintage, including nearly all of my jackets and coats, and many of them cost peanuts.

* Buy from other outlets: army surplus stores (overalls, thermal underwear, shirts); ship’s chandlers (waterproofs, wellies, great knitwear); country outfitters (shooting jackets, viyella shirts, hats, scarves and boots); sportswear shops (hard-wearing tees, polo-collar shirts, fleeces). 

* Stores such as Target, Lidl and Walmart (Asda) sell perfectly good basics such as tees, non-label jeans, knickers and socks on top of which you can ring the changes with more expensive, more individualistic items. 

Tomorrow: maintenance

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